Monday, 15 September 2008

Orchestral musicians and race

A very interesting piece by Elizabeth Day in the Observer Review this weekend. I simply can't buy one individual's suggestion that there is institutional racism in the top tiers of British Orchestras. This article had many more fingers to point though.

Former culture minister David Lammy points specifically at the culture being a hurdle: not that non-white children don't want to try and instrument, nor that they necessarily don't have access to it. Rather that their social situations simply don't provide the means - space and support - in which to practice. This is backed up by a later statement from a professional, Althea Ifeka:
The lack of black orchestral musicians is about money, not colour. It's a bad career choice... First-generation immigrants don't want their children going into a profession that is uncertain and poorly rewarded.
What does keep recurring throughout the article is that basic cultural segregation is the greatest privation of all.
For parents to encourage the level of dedication required to reach the top echelons of orchestral performance, says Lammy, they must first be familiar with a classical music tradition that is rooted in a white, Christian historical context. Gladstone Reid [quoted earlier] was fortunate that his great-grandfather was an Anglican choirmaster and his father taught him how to play the guitar from the age of seven. Lammy, too, was exposed to classical music as a cathedral chorister. But for many young musicians there is no such frame of reference.
Elizabeth Day asks: "Why has multiculturalism not reached the orchestra pit?" Well, clearly it has, and is at the root of the problem.

1 comment:

Framescourer said...

I liked this article in today's Guardian, although it doesn't necessarily sit very well with this post.